WASHINGTON – Governor Inslee recently allowed limited reopening of the state’s strong and diverse museum sector in Phases 2 and 3 of Washington’s Safe Start Plan. Response from the sector was immediate and overwhelmingly favorable. Read the Governor’s news release.

“This has come not a moment too soon. Many of our museums were on the brink of disaster” said Karen Hanan, Executive Director of the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). “Because of social distancing requirements the arts and culture sector has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Many in our sector will be among the last to fully reopen. With a safety plan in place, museums and galleries will be ready to open their doors.”

In April, Hanan put out a call to museum leaders across the state who represented the wide diversity of the sector. The mission was to devise safe reopening plans for museums applicable to Phases 2 and 3 of the Governor’s reopening guidelines. The sector responded immediately, and the resulting working group began writing a safety plan that all museums and galleries could use.

“The group included large organizations like the Seattle Art Museum, the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, and the Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane,” Hanan said. “Smaller organizations were represented by the Yakima Valley Rail & Steam Museum in Toppenish, the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, and the White Bluffs Quilt Museum in Richland. More than 100 museums supported the plan.”

In addition to the agreed-upon statewide reopening plan, individual museums, art galleries, and interpretive centers would adopt their own plans specific to their organization. These plans would detail localized protocols for employee safety and customer interaction but would comply with the safety and health requirements of their county or city jurisdiction.

“Our communities need their museums to ground and connect them, to provide meaningful education opportunities, access, and care for our children, and in times of social upheaval to help bring people together to create shared understandings and common community goals,” said Keni Sturgeon, Executive Director of the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. “It is a positive step forward that our state’s museums can now safely reopen and re-engage with communities who so need that right now.”

The arts and cultural sectors in Washington are significant drivers of our state economy as well as critical to a community’s social fabric and identity. Washington has 17,642 arts and culture-related businesses. This provides 167,004 arts and creative jobs. In total, the arts and culture sectors contribute $44.3 billion to Washington state’s economy. This represents 8.4% of the state’s GDP (US Bureau of Economic Analysis).

The museum sector alone, comprises more than 500 institutions large and small in every corner of the state. They explore history, art, science, and culture. They enrich and enliven our communities. As educational, artistic and cultural institutions, the museums have been eager to re-open to the public to once again bring meaning, wonder, and joy to the families and people of Washington.